My Story

 by Ira I. Boggs (1895- 1983)

I suppose that I have lived in the most progressive times of history. I was born in 1895, and I grew up in the horse and buggy days.

Like most Americans born at the turn of the century, I grew up in the country. We had only a few roads that we could get a horse and buggy over, and most of them went only from town to town. (Now, we’ve been on the moon; and we’re trying to get to the planet Mars.)

My first ride in a horse drawn buggy (or hack) was from Winona, West Virginia to Deep Water, in 1916 -- to catch a train to Charleston, West Virginia.

My first automobile ride was during the First World War — from Chicamonga Park, Georgia to Chattanooga, Tennessee (in 1917).

The first train I ever rode was a little log train that ran up King Shoals Creek. The first passenger train I ever rode was from King Shoals station to Pard, about a mile (in 1903). We rode the Shea wood burner, powered by steam. (The coal burning steam engine, the big Malla locomotive freighter, came later. The BCG, C&O, B&E, K&M, PA, N&W and the Southern Pacific Railroad Companies used it.) In Huntington Beach (California), I traveled on Interurban R.R trains pulled by electrically powered gasoline (or diesel fueled) engines, to Los Angeles and other parts of southern California. In New York City I rode on the subway.

My first airplane ride started on the beach at Huntington Beach, California (in 1921). We took off from the hard sand beach in a little (two passenger) Curtis plane. We went up to about two thousand feet and sailed out over the ocean, then back inland. The flight lasted only about fifteen minutes. (The first trip I made on an airplane was in 1961--from Wilmington, Delaware to Charleston, West Virginia)

The first trip by ship was from Brooklyn harbor to France, in 1918; and I had another long voyage in 1924 — from San Pedro, Los Angeles harbor, south to the Panama Canal. We traveled through the canal and turned north, to New York harbor.

The first recorded voice I ever heard was on a phonograph (in 1904). It had a big horn, shaped like a Morning Glory, and it had a coil spring to wind every time you played a record.

The first talking movie I ever saw was at Ranger, Texas (in 1920). That was the first one in town. The first radio I ever heard was in the 20’s; and the first television I ever saw must have been in the late 40’s. (Now we can talk, or see TV, from planet to planet, hundreds of thousands of miles.)

In 1921, I attended a state fair in Los Angeles where the first electric lights were on display, along with many other inventions made by Thomas A. Edison (our greatest inventor).

The most dangerous job in my lifetime was being a machine-gunner in World War I. The average life of a machine gunner in battle was seven minutes, and I fired my gun in battle for fifteen-minutes, or more. Fortunately, that was just a little scrimmage, or I wouldn’t have lived to tell about it.

I came through the war without a scratch; but, right after the armistice, I caught the flue. In my later years, I had a near death experience due to a heart condition that was caused by that illness. I have faced many dangers in my lifetime, but my only serious physical injury occurred when I was walking to work one morning. I slipped on ice and broke my pelvis bone and some ribs.

Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations, and I did a lot of that. I also helped cut timber, another hazardous job. In the oil fields, I worked at building roads, drilling holes for explosions, and climbing giant oilrigs. At age 65, I retired from the Hope Natural Gas Co. after thirty-five years of steady employment. On that job, I encountered scenes that reminded me of the battlefields.

William Jennings Bryan was the greatest man I ever saw. I met him in Los Angeles, California, when he was on a tour speaking against the theory of evolution (in 1923). John Kennedy was one of the next greatest men I’ve met. He is the only President I have shook hands with. I narrowly missed seeing President Harding. He was on a tour when he died; and, no doubt, if he had lived a few more days, he would have come to L.A. where I was living at that time. I was six years old when McKinley was assassinated. He was very popular, and his death shocked the people as much as when Kennedy was killed.

I quit school when I was nine years old — to help feed our large family. (My parents had twelve boys and two girls, and I was the fourth born.) At age 17, I started back in the third grade; and, after three six-month terms, I took the 8th grade diploma test. I passed it with a grade average of 85.5. After World War I, I attended Los Angeles Vocational High School for one year. I could have gone for four years, but I was too nervous (from the war) to concentrate on my studies. I took “on the job training” for the rest of my time on the G. I. bill (or its equivalent).

I didn’t marry until 1929, when I was 34 years old. My bride, Nellie J. McCune, was only twenty-one; so we still had time to raise a large family (eleven children). In those days, it wasn’t easy for anybody to get and keep good employment. I was fortunate to have a good job throughout the Great Depression while our children were growing up.                                                                                                                                                               

Through the worst and the best of times, I had to compete with the best of men. Some of them had unfavorable advantages over me.

For several generations, all of Nellie’s ancestors, and mine, have lived in the Hills of Central West Virginia. Some of them were Native Americans. (My kinship was with the Cherokee tribe, and hers was with the Black-hawk Indians.) I have traveled all over the world, and lived in several states; and I believe that we have the most beautiful state in the union and some of the best scenery in the world.

I have lived through most of the twentieth century, and it has been a century of great turmoil. I survived the Great Depression of the 20’s; and I have lived through the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. (Two of my sons served in the Vietnam War.)

This has been a very exciting century, but I pray that my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will not have to go through as many hard times as I did. Scholars have predicted that the world is due for a century of peace. They say that throughout history the world has alternated between a hundred years of war and a hundred years of relative peace, and I hope that they are right. I cannot imagine what an all-out war would be like in the age of megaton bombs.

For the full story, go to Memories

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